In a recent post, we talked about having an IT strategy for your business especially in 2020. Today, we’ll discuss the strategic planning process, as it relates to the end goals of your company. Has your team met to create a strategic plan in the past, but was then set aside and forgotten? Strategic planning is one thing, but strategy execution is another. It requires a lot of thought and work, but if done correctly, can be immensely beneficial to your organization. We’ve put together a few guidelines to help you get started on making a successful strategic plan.
Why Make a Strategic Plan?
Too often, business owners get overwhelmed and concentrate solely on carrying out day-to-day operations, and forget the why of what they’re doing. It’s easy to lose sight of what your long-term goals are and why your work is important when you’re focusing on the short term.
But setting aside some time to think through what you want to accomplish via your vision and mission statements is a good investment. And then, mapping out how you’re going to achieve your strategic goals will pay dividends in the future.
Strategic planning can also be incredibly useful for ensuring that your executive team (and other employees) are all on the same page. Maybe there are some differing opinions on where your company should be in five years? Maybe there’s a debate over how to allocate certain funds. The strategic planning process is a great time to work through all this. If all goes well, you should finish the process with a unified understanding of the direction you intend to go in and how you’re going to get there.
What Exactly is the Process for Strategic Planning?
Simply put, a strategic plan is a document outlining your company’s mission, vision, goals, and objectives.
It lays out a clear path and timeframe to achieving these goals and realizing your mission, including:
- checkpoints along the way
- how to manage and allocate resources
- both short and long term goals
To start a successful mission, here are five important steps for a strategic planning process:
1. Gather key players
The first step is to gather a team to begin the strategic planning process. Chances are you already have someone in mind to lead the process – this could be you, or even a strategic planning consultant. If you make the investment, it can be very helpful to have a consultant leading this process, as they offer an objective viewpoint. And, because they have the knowledge and experience to offer guidance.
In addition to deciding who would best lead the process, it is important to have diverse opinions on your team. One person can’t carry out this process alone. As such, choosing key members from all departments and with different perspectives will best help develop unique objectives and a specific action plan tailored for your company.
2. Create statements
After the team is assembled, it’s time for some group brainstorming to develop or reevaluate a mission statement and a vision statement. If you’ve started a brand new organization, there’s a good chance you haven’t developed one or both of these statements yet. But even if the company has been around for a few years and already have a mission and/or vision statement, this is a fantastic opportunity to really think about your statements, and how they fit in with your organization currently. Do they need a few adjustments? This is normal because growth and change are inevitable, especially for businesses.
What is the difference between these two statements and why do we need both?
A vision statement is your chance to dream. Get your group together and ask everyone to take a few moments just to visualize where they see the organization in a few years – what they hope to become. Your collective thoughts on this will become your vision statement.
However, the mission statement is a bit more succinct. Instead of stating where you want your business to be, it states what purpose your business serves and how everyone will execute this purpose. Mission statements are generally shorter and more to the point than vision statements. It’s a good idea to develop these statements early on in the strategic planning process, as they should be something that anyone can refer to throughout. As such, the idea here is making sure the strategic plan always aligns with your mission and vision.
Once the team has established your overarching strategic objectives (vision and mission), we recommend conducting an analysis of your business’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, both internally and externally. We’ve referred to the SWOT analysis before. This provides your strategic planning team a valuable opportunity to be honest about what your company is doing well and where there is room for improvement.
Without recognizing these strengths and weaknesses, it will be difficult to create a realistic and effective strategic plan. It is also very important to look at which strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats are due to internal factors, and which stem from external factors. Maybe your internal IT department just hasn’t caught up with the rapidly evolving external IT world. This is the time to make a plan to change that.
4. Establish clear goals
Now that the team has developed a vision and mission statement, and analyzed your company’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s time to establish some clear-cut strategic goals. But more importantly, it’s the time to develop an action plan on how to execute these goals.
This step can be overwhelming. Hence, to make it more manageable, the team would establish strategic priorities. These are the goals that are most important to follow through on – the ones that will most help you achieve your vision. Once you’ve established your strategic priorities, set up an action plan detailing exactly how your business will complete them.
There are many moving parts in the plan: action steps, timetables, and anything necessary to improve clarity and accountability. For each step in achieving your goals, we recommend noting who will carry it out, how they will carry it out (do they need help from the IT department, employees, financial capital, etc?), and when to carry it out.
5. Reassess, reevaluate, repeat
Lastly, it is crucial when conducting a strategic plan to build in space for monitoring the plan. In your action item timetables, note the times at which the progress in relation to your strategic plan will be reviewed. The original team should constantly examine how well the strategic plan is being carried out, to see if it still aligns with your mission and vision. Choosing a frequency, maybe monthly or quarterly, to meet with the team and review and update your strategic plan will ensure its successful execution.
Need a little more guidance on the strategic management process? We can help!
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